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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Florence v. Board Of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington case brief

Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders
Citation: 132 S. Ct. 1510


CASE SYNOPSIS:
A district court granted summary judgment to petitioner former detainee in a 42 U.S.C.S. §1983 action against defendant jail officials in which he alleged both Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations.
The district court ruled that "strip-searching" non-indictable offenders (NIO) without reasonable suspicion violated the Fourth Amendment.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the district court's ruling.
The court granted Certiorari.

FACTS:
In this case, deference was to be given to jail officials unless there was substantial evidence showing that their response to the situation was exaggerated.
Concerns about gang members provided a reasonable basis in order to justify a visual inspection for signs of gang affiliation during jail intake.
Detecting contraband concealed by new detainees was a very serious responsibility.
The seriousness of an offense was found to be a poor predictor of who had contraband, and it was said that this would be difficult in practice in order to determine whether individual detainees fell within the proposed NIO exemption.
Offenders could be put at heightened risk from more contraband being brought in, which was a substantial reason not to mandate an exception for NIOs or for those who were not charged with an offense that involved a weapon or drugs as a matter of constitutional law.
The officers that conducted a preliminary search often had no access to criminal history records, as the detainee's rap sheet did not reflect his previous arrest for deadly weapons possession(s).
The search procedures to which the petitioner was subjected struck a reasonable balance between both inmate privacy as well as the needs of the jail.
The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments did not require the adoption of an exemption for NIOs.

CONCLUSION: The Third Circuit's judgment, that reversed the prior ruling that "strip-searching" nonindictable offenders without reasonable suspicion violated the Fourth Amendment, was affirmed by the court.
5-4 Decision; 2 concurrences; 1 dissent.

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